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Continuing coding education in secondary school

09 April 2019

Ricky Ye, CEO of DFRobot, discusses the importance of coding education in secondary school and how the computing and programming learning experience can be enhanced through coding hardware resources.

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Thanks to society’s increased reliance on technology and its ever-expanding presence in the workforce, the need for coding as a part of STEM education has become increasingly important. What’s more, as technology continues to advance at such a rapid pace, students are now expected to have a deep understanding of coding and its supporting functions. With this in mind, it is now essential for not only coding, but also hardware to become a part of the lesson plan to ensure that students gain a comprehensive knowledge base. It is through this use of hardware that students can bring their coding to life and explore a wide range of practical applications. Think of rebooting your computer, voice recognition applications, and the Internet of Things – each of these are examples of coding and hardware working in concert and are clear examples of why incorporating hardware is important in secondary education.

The integration of coding into a school’s curriculum has become increasingly essential as technology continues to develop and become an integral aspect of society. Technology is everywhere we turn and has become a part of almost all aspects of our lives. From the smartphone in our pocket to the programmed robots that produce our clothes, food, and interiors – every sector and occupation has become reliant on the use of computing. Subsequently, it has become essential for more students to enter the workforce with an advanced understanding of, and a comprehensive computing and programming skillset. Additionally, computer-oriented jobs are now needed four times more than any other occupation yet, the lack of qualified individuals in this field has created an every-expanding skills gap.

Despite an awareness for an increase in coding attainment, the implementation of computing and coding resources into classrooms has faced numerous challenges. In large part this is due to of a lack of engaging resources that support STEM learning in practical ways. Recently, we have witnessed greater emphasis on STEM learning and as a result more and more primary schools are implementing coding into the curriculum however, it is essential to ensure that these classes are continued throughout secondary schools as well. Integrating coding in primary schools is valuable, especially given the malleability of students’ minds however, as students mature, the basic knowledge and skills gained in primary school can be built upon to provide a more nuanced understanding. The continuation of developing these skills is also important given that students are required to demonstrate this greater understanding and expanded practical applications as they prepare to enter the workforce.

Leveraging the foundational knowledge gained earlier in their education, secondary students are also able to take on bigger and more challenging projects but what is the best way to achieve this and can educators ensure the effective integration of coding hardware? Thankfully, creativity knows no bounds, so teachers and students have ample opportunities to enhance their hardware knowledge through extra-curricular activities like coding clubs, integrating coding into other subjects, and through coding challenges.

Secondary schools that have after-school clubs and activities that focus on building upon these coding skills, like a robotics club, offer more ways for students to build their skills outside of the constraints of curriculum and provide students with more opportunities for success in the workforce. Through the use of after-school clubs, there are more opportunities for students to choose projects that interest and challenge them, which leads to more engagement and creativity with coding skills.

Since there is also a wider array of classes in secondary school to better fit every student’s proficiency, there is also room for a wide range of coding classes to fit every student’s skill level. Students can choose to take a class that reiterates the basics of coding and build smaller projects, like the Maqueen – a portable robot for micro:bit that is great for group activities, or advanced projects, like a complex hover board and sensors. Providing students with the opportunity to choose which classes they would like to enrol in leads to a more equal opportunity classroom and shows the students how to appreciate the material in a more complex manner.

Other opportunities to make sure that students are developing their coding skills in secondary school include implementing specific days for coding workshops. Through these coding workshops, the school can ask a professional to come in and show the students how to use a more complex coding program, like Python, and how it is used in a professional setting. A coding workshop gives students the opportunity to learn directly from a coding professional, allows them to raise questions for someone that has followed a similar education path like the one they may choose to pursue, and shows them the most relevant skills that are needed to be successful in the tech-centred workforce.

Coding has quickly become a skill that is needed to be successful in this new technology-driven world and while schools have slowly started to integrate coding into their curriculum in primary schools, greater uptake is required at the secondary level. Coding hardware provides the opportunity to ensure that every student is able to not only understand the principals of coding but can also transfer this knowledge to the every-increasing array of practical applications.


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